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Bereavement

How to treat bereaved friends

(43 Posts)
Beswitched Tue 10-Aug-21 11:07:33

I think everybody has different needs after they're bereaved, but I thought it might be helpful if some of us shared things that we found helpful in the days and weeks following the death of a loved one.

I have just lost my mother and so many friends have contacted me saying to let them know when I'm ready to meet for coffee, or to ring them any time I feel like it, or that we'll meet up when things quiten down.

It's really kind of them and I know they're trying to give me space and not intrude. But the days and weeks immediately after the funeral (I live in Ireland where the funeral is held within a few days of the death) are very hard and lonely. I realise now that it's not intrusive to say to a friend "would you like to meet up for coffee tomorrow. If you don't feel like it I'll understand but if you'd like to get out of the house for a while I would love to meet you'.

When you're feeling a bit raw and vulnerable you can also feel a bit over sensitive and not that confident about contacting people yourself in case you seem 'needy'.

It's just something I've learned in recent days, and won't be afraid in future to suggest a day and time to a bereaved friend while making it very clear no offence will be taken if they just don't feel like it.

Calendargirl Tue 10-Aug-21 11:11:37

Sending condolences on your loss.

flowers

Septimia Tue 10-Aug-21 11:12:03

Someone I know was nursing her husband, so I emailed each evening, just with chat. She could then reply when it was convenient. We continued with this after her husband died and still do it some years later. It's a good way to help fill those difficult times and something to look forward to each day.

jaylucy Tue 10-Aug-21 11:14:36

I would have just liked a chance to sit down with someone and talk about my mum after she died unexpectedly.
I was so busy looking after my dad who was absolutely devastated , who got so upset at every mention of her that I never got the chance.
The cards were all lovely , as were the flowers, but when I got back to work, I found that every time I mentioned mum, the subject was changed.
Just to have someone to sit with a coffee and chat would have been so much help.

MawBe Tue 10-Aug-21 11:55:56

My sincere condolences Beswitched. flowersflowers
Most people mean well, but don’t realise how hard it is, after a bereavement, to be the proactive one. Fear of rejection, or of appearing “needy” has many times stopped me making the first move. As you yourself said.
The “best” friends are the ones who suggest the coffee out, a joint excursion, even a trip to the shops (one of my best friends asked me to go with her on a MOB outfit choosing day) - just something to get you out of the house and out of yourself.
Sadly lockdown last year put all that on hold but it is a lesson to us all - I hope those who have not suffered bereavements- if there are any- take note of your thread. We can all learn.

allsortsofbags Tue 10-Aug-21 12:20:18

flowers Condolences on your loss.

Thank you for your post.

The points you've raised have made me more aware of my need as a friend to be the proactive one.

To offer an outing that can be turned down or not attended and to keep those offers going.

I don't have a problem with understanding that people aren't always in a place to "do" things but your post has made me realise that leaving the initiative with the person dealing with loss might be adding their burden not giving them freedom to choose.

Wishing you a peaceful day.

Beswitched Tue 10-Aug-21 12:21:48

Thank you for the kind posts.

Floradora9 Tue 10-Aug-21 14:26:44

I think it is the same if your OH is in hospital . When it happened to me so many people said to give them a ring if I needed a lift for visiting . The real friends said " right , what day will I give you a lift "

NotSpaghetti Tue 10-Aug-21 14:48:33

My friend, who was bereaved two years ago, likes a phone call in the evening rather than the daytime.
She says most retired people she knows call her in the day, often in the morning. She says the evening is long and lonely - so I always call well after dinner when I know the loneliness is most acute.

Just thought I'd pass this on.

sharon103 Tue 10-Aug-21 15:11:55

I think some people have different needs after a bereavement.
Some prefer to be left alone, some need to have company or to keep busy and occupy their mind.
Respect their wishes and always be a good listener not just for the days after the death but for the weeks and months to come.
The grieving process is a long one.
My sympathy to you and you family flowers

AGAA4 Tue 10-Aug-21 16:51:17

The way not to treat a bereaved person is to ignore them. I had one (no longer a friend) who did just that.
Most, thankfully, rang and visited regularly and I was grateful for their care.

Judy54 Tue 10-Aug-21 17:21:58

Yes AGAA4 it is the people that ignore you who are the worst. Sincere condolences Beswitched you are right everyone has different needs and it is so kind of you to share your thoughts with us at such a difficult time flowers

Silverbridge Tue 10-Aug-21 17:30:03

Things that we found helpful ...

A group of old schoolfriends and I take an annual break together, sometimes a long weekend, sometimes a whole week.

We had something booked when my husband died suddenly and unexpectedly. The holiday was three weeks away and only a week after his funeral. My gut reaction was to cancel but they urged me to go saying they would give me companionship when I needed it, space when I didn’t.

So that’s what I did and that’s what our group have continued to do over the years as others have also been bereaved. It’s exactly what needs to happen. Some sense of normality.

Redhead56 Tue 10-Aug-21 21:31:48

One of my friends who lives down the road from us. Turned up to ours with a bottle of wine. I had just returned home from hospital I was at my mums bedside for three days until she died.

My friend didn’t hesitate to comfort me when I needed it most. Yet she had only just been released from hospital after cancer treatment herself but considered me first.

My other friend who was also poorly turned up two days later they are such wonderful friends I am lucky to have them.

Now my two friends have health issues and problems and I am worried about them. I will support them all I can as they did me and my DH.

The best advice I can give you is see your friends don’t avoid them.

Beswitched Wed 11-Aug-21 11:04:20

I think, if possible, to also be mindful of particular times that might be difficult in the weeks following the death.

For instance if someone has no family around and has just lost their OH Sunday could be a hard day, a day they used to spend with their spouse but which now hangs heavy as they imagine everyone else doing family stuff.
Or if someone always went shopping with their mum on a Saturday that might be a time that feels especially poignant.

An offer to meet for coffee or go for a walk could be very greatly appreciated, and make a difficult time slightly easier.

chris8888 Sun 22-Aug-21 00:12:19

How not to treat people. I lost my daughter a few years ago and what I find hard is the idea that `I should be over losing her by now`. That people even close family think sending a text on an anniversary or birthday is ok. I know people don`t know what to say but honestly a knock on the door, or a card, a coffee and the ability to talk about the person you loved is what is needed.

absent Sun 22-Aug-21 06:56:10

chris8888 It may not be that people think that you should be "over" losing her by now. Many people are reticent and embarrassed about reminding the bereaved of their loss – as if they will ever forget their loved one. I was shocked when I talked to a friend about her husband and described how proud he was of her and their daughter on the first anniversary of his death and she told me that I was the only friend who had said a word about him that day. Her eyes and mine filled with tears but I feel sure I did the right thing. I still mention him and recall my joyous memories of him to both his widow and his daughter, although these days I have to do it through social media as I now live on the other side of the world.

Scribbles Sun 22-Aug-21 09:32:18

Don't tell the bereaved person what to do. About six weeks after my husband's death, a friend called to ask how I was. I tried to describe the utter, black despair and loneliness I was feeling at that moment and she responded with, "well, you'll have to get out and find something to do - a knitting group, U3A, family history or something...". All in a very brisk, no nonsense sort of tone as though she thought the sort of anguish I was describing could be cured by a few Knit & Natter sessions. I think I screamed at her. I certainly let her know that her response was insensitive and unkind to which she replied, very offended, that she was trying to help and wouldn't call me again but leave it for me to call her when I wanted to talk and was feeling more reasonable. Needless to say, I didn't.

The other thing I'd say is, don't assume that after the first year, the bereaved person is "over it" or "moving on" and less in need of your support and friendship. In many ways, the second year is proving harder for me than the first.

Partly, that's due to external circumstances. My OH died early last year, just as all the corona-chaos was kicking off. The house-arrest started two days after his funeral and, for weeks, nobody was able to do anything except talk on the phone or Skype etc. so there was lots of keeping in touch. Now, life is a little more normal and people are doing more - getting around, seeing friends and relations and going on holiday which is great and as it should be so there's less time for those chatty, supportive calls. However, for the bereaved person, this has brought the realisation that "normal" will never be normal again. Holidays, days out, visits to loved ones or participation in activities we both used to enjoy will forever now be accomplished alone and the sense of utter aloneness hits twice as hard. It was different last year when just about everyone was feeling lonely and miserable.

So, please spare a thought in your newly-busy life and call that bereaved friend or ask them to join you for a pub lunch. They may say, no but the knowledge that you thought of them will cheer them enormously.

SusieB50 Sun 22-Aug-21 09:51:51

Scribbles, yes I am finding this year difficult too . My DH died just before Covid lock down started .It was an awful time but as you say everyone was in the same boat ! I have been away a fair bit this summer , it is very strange going away without DH . I have just come back home from staying with a friend also widowed and we spent a lovely evening laughing and weeping reminiscing over many family holidays some of which we had spent together . Some people think they may upset you if they mention a loved one who has died , but it’s good to talk even if emotions bubble up …

MawBe Sun 22-Aug-21 11:36:44

Now, life is a little more normal and people are doing more - getting around, seeing friends and relations and going on holiday which is great and as it should be so there's less time for those chatty, supportive calls. However, for the bereaved person, this has brought the realisation that "normal" will never be normal again. Holidays, days out, visits to loved ones or participation in activities we both used to enjoy will forever now be accomplished alone and the sense of utter aloneness hits twice as hard. It was different last year when just about everyone was feeling lonely and miserable

Absolutely Scribbles - I could do have written that. There was a sense of all being in it together and with nowhere to go it didn’t matter that there was nobody to go to it with!
I don’t begrudge anybody anything but on yet another solitary Sunday I have to turn a blind eye to all the “We…” sentences on eg threads where people outline their plans for the day.
Oddly, before the pandemic I was actually getting used to doing things on my own - usually spur of the moment decisions, - but now that so much has to be booked in advance I find I can’t do that.
Self-confidence? Laziness? Apathy? Certainly less motivation than when I was seriously trying to get my act together in the year after DH’s death.
As for “tactful” people skirting round the subject- they have clearly never “been there”.
To quote one of Phoenix’s RL friends I have been in touch with, she commented that she liked Sir Terry Pratchett’s words in one of his Discworld books, something along the lines of “They are not dead whilst their name is still spoken”.

MawBe Sun 22-Aug-21 11:45:30

Another friend has just sent me this- wise words sad

Bea65 Sun 22-Aug-21 12:00:34

MawBe

Another friend has just sent me this- wise words sad

LOVE THIS..Wishing you all brighter days 🌻

Scribbles Sun 22-Aug-21 17:00:17

Thanks for posting The Mountain ,*Maw*. That's one I've clipped to keep.

Self-confidence? Laziness? Apathy? Certainly less motivation than when I was seriously trying to get my act together in the year after DH’s death

All that forward-planning and booking ahead did nothing to encourage me to go out, either. I have always been a creature of impulse and dislike being organised to suit other people! Things around here are now much more relaxed so a spur of the moment outing is more feasible.

Today I was talking to an old school friend and, when she asked how I'm feeling, I replied truthfully that it hasn't been the best of weeks: lots of minor problems and aggravations that left me feeling depressed and helpless and missing OH badly because he was the one with all the technical and practical skills. However, I said, I'm getting over my bad patch and looking forward to a few days away next weekend.

My friend was surprised that I should be so 'down.' "But you’re so resilient and full of confidence; I admire the way you just tackle things head on and get them done," she said, "I didn't know a few minor setbacks could knock you back so badly."

Resilient? Confident? No. That's someone I used to be. She's now a veneer I put on along with my cologne and mascara when I have to deal with the world because the last thing I need is for everyone and his dog to see the quaking jelly underneath.

If someone who has been a friend for nearly 60 years can be so greatly bamboozled by an act then I think perhaps we should add to the OP's list- please don't be taken in by a smiling face and a confident manner. Probe gently and you may find a bundle of misery and grief who would welcome the opportunity to offload for a little while.

SusieB50 Sun 22-Aug-21 18:30:01

scribbles *and *MawBe 💐thinking of you both I too find Sundays tricky 😐

MawBe Sun 22-Aug-21 18:51:15

My friend was surprised that I should be so 'down.' "But you’re so resilient and full of confidence; I admire the way you just tackle things head on and get them done," she said, "I didn't know a few minor setbacks could knock you back so badly
Incredible that a “friend” could know or understand you so little!
I often think we go out of our way to spare the feelings of others. When asked how we are, we reply “Fine, not so bad, coping, one foot in front of the other” or suchlike cliches to reassure them we are not going to burst into tears (OMG how embarrassing!) or tell it like it is- your heart has been ripped out, you have lost your right hand and been punched in the solar plexus and you have never felt so alone in your entire life.
We don’t embarrass them by bringing the departed’s name into the conversation, even although they are at the forefront of our mind and we certainly do not ask for sympathy. .
“Life goes on after all” - or does it?